To many people, the Bible is an old-fashioned book that’s fine for little old ladies and funerals but of limited or no value in their daily life. How wrong they are! The Bible can be an exciting book and more up-to-date than tomorrow’s newspaper.
I want to explore with you this verse from Jeremiah 15:16, “Your words were found, and I ate them, And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart“ (NKJV). So we can enjoy the Bible as a book that delights us, for if one person found God’s words enjoyable, then all people can.
E.W. Bullinger in the Introduction to his 1907 book How to Enjoy the Bible, wrote, “The root of all the evils which abound in the spiritual sphere at the present day lies in the fact that the Word and the words of God are not fed upon, digested, and assimilated, as they ought to be. If we ask the question, Why is this the case? the answer is, The Bible is not enjoyed because the Bible is not understood. The methods and rules by which alone such an understanding may be gained are not known or followed; hence the Bible is a neglected book.”
Later in the Introduction he writes: “Like Ezra of old
The story behind Jeremiah’s enthusiastic statement was the discovery during the reign of King Josiah of a scroll containing all or extracts from the first five books of the Old Testament (called the Pentateuch or Torah) . The event is recorded in II Kings chapter 22. The temple was being repaired and the temple copy had been hidden when the building suffered damage by some marauding army perhaps some decades before.
Jeremiah said, “Your words were found, and I ate them…” The Bible often speaks of the believer being fed by the Word of God. For example, in Psalm 19:10 the words are said to be “sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4). It was God’s decision that He would use words to let humans know He exists and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him, as Hebrews 11:6 puts it. To eat the Word is to take it in and assimilate it. Unlike the unpleasant castor oil that my mother gave me every time I did not feel well, God’s Word is food that produces joy and rejoicing, and therefore wise people devour it with great delight. “When your words showed up, I ate them–swallowed them whole. What a feast!” (Message Bible).
As I mentioned in our last session, we should always read what is written first. To get this benefit you need to use an “essentially literal” translation in the tradition of the King James Version. You might notice I have used the New King James Version in this session, for a specific purpose. While “words” and “word” are the same Hebrew word, one is plural and the other is singular. Individual words are important, “every word,” and together they make up the whole “Word” of God (singular).
Jesus made the same distinction between individual words and the whole collection of words. “For I have given them the words that you gave me… I have given them your word” (John 17:8,14 ESV). In many translations the distinction is lost. Paul was careful to show the distinction: “Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as of many, but as of one, ‘And to your Seed,’ who is Christ” (Galatians 3:16 NKJV); “When you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe” (I Thessalonians 2:13 NKJV).
Paraphrases (or “dynamic equivalent” Bibles) tend to ignore the specific words and attempt to give the overall sense of the passage (see the Message Bible quotation above). While I like paraphrases for illustrative and devotional purposes, by necessity they obscure many truths and relationships found by carefully reading the individual words.
So what do we learn from all this? You will never “enjoy” the Bible if you read it as a discipline (“a verse a day keeps the devil away”); you will get excited when you simply read the words that are written because they taste good for your spirit. Try this: read a couple of verses, then go back and read them again slowly, noting the words used. Remember, even the little words are important. “every word” (Matthew 4:4). Look for repetition or cause and effect, underline words that seem important to you (use a soft pencil like 2B so you can rub them out if need be). Then think about what you’ve read during the next 24 hours. I believe you’ll be blessed!